Welsh MPs have attended a special NFU Cymru event in Westminster underlining the importance of Welsh agriculture and its particular vulnerability to a poor Brexit deal.
A cross section of MPs from all political parties attended the event in the House of Commons, held earlier today (Monday 19th November), to hear from NFU Cymru officeholders and staff as to why losing tariff-free and barrier-free access to the European market could be ‘disastrous’ for Welsh farmers.
The event saw NFU Cymru bring a bit of the Welsh countryside into the House of Commons with a large, eye-catching banner of sheep grazing on the iconic Welsh landscape, while MPs were also able to sample a variety of meats and cheeses produced by Welsh farmers.
NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “We are now at a truly critical stage in the Brexit process, with Parliament having a meaningful vote next month on the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration.
“The EU 27 are our nearest and largest export market. Around a third of our lamb crop is exported each year, with 90% of that going to the EU. If we were to crash out of the EU and have to trade on WTO terms, our exports of lamb would face an effective tariff rate of 46%, while for beef effective rates are much higher at anything between 48 and 84% according to the cut.
“There is no way that Welsh sheep producers could remain competitive when faced with such steep tariffs, and that is of course before I even go on to mention non-tariff or regulatory barriers which are often overlooked, but can add really significant costs to trade.
“Under a no-deal scenario, in order to export to the EU27 we will also need to secure their approval as a third country exporter, something which according to the UK Government’s own technical notices, we cannot be sure of obtaining. Potentially therefore we face the prospect of being shut out of our EU export markets for an unknown period of time.
“My worst fear, though, is that we end up being shut out of export markets, whilst the UK Government in its desire to keep food on supermarket shelves will continue to admit agri-food products from the EU27 to the UK. If realised, this would amount to a double jeopardy of us being unable to export to the EU, whilst imports continue to come is as normal.
“It hardly needs stating therefore that the precise nature of our future trading relationship with the EU27 will be a key determinant of the future viability of farming businesses across Wales. A no-deal scenario will be disastrous for our sector and it is vital that whatever steps necessary are taken to ensure that we can continue to trade as freely as we possibly can with the EU27.”
Mr Davies added: “I am delighted that so many Welsh MPs were able to meet with us today to hear our concerns about crashing out of the EU next March and falling back on WTO rules.”
Event sponsor Chris Elmore MP added: “I was delighted to host a Parliamentary event for NFU Cymru today, to discuss the importance of Welsh agriculture and Brexit. It is so important that farmers in Wales are protected going forward. I know this issue is of vital importance to my constituents in Ogmore, to ensure they are protected and get the certainty they have been waiting for, for many months.”